2005 AKA Convention and Grand Nationals – Day 1

And full circle it comes… The last time the AKA Convention (AKAGN) came to Ocean City (OC) in 2002, Mike Gillard did the first daily web updates from this event and we’ve been proud to carry on his wonderful idea as a tradition even under new ownership.

Arriving in Baltimore on Saturday afternoon, we knew we were headed for a kite event when we bumped into Region 10 Director Marla Milla and her husband Ron on the shuttle taking us to pick up our rental car! We’d come out with the whole team, didn’t have a room booked in OC until the following day and ended up having one heck of a time locating a vacancy anywhere within 100 miles thanks to the immensely popular Sunfest, put on the week leading up to AKAGN… We found a place to stay in nearby Salibury after about three dozen calls, and got some much needed rest before headed to OC.

Arising around 8am, two more great kite people greeted us at our hotel in Salisbury, Jeff and Donna McCown (Wind Junkies) from Texas… After introducing them to my teammates and grabbing a quick continental breakfast from the hotel, it was time to head into town and check out the beach.

Sunday turned out to be a gorgeous day on the beach with an average 6-8mph right off the water and steady as a rock… Before actually stepping foot on the sand, we made sure to swing by the Kite Loft where Darrin and Susan Skinner were manning the AKA table, making kiting and organizational information available to passing tourists and vacationers.

After cruising the shop, my team (TKS Mid-Air) got in three hours of solid practice and then we broke off to get in a little bit of individual airtime as well… During my cruise up and down the beach, I ran into Shawn and Patty Tinkham, Ron “The Machine” Graziano, the Gordon brothers (Zach and Josh), Andy Burchfield, Andrew Albosta, Kurtis Jones and quite a few others who were out for some early week practice, enjoying the glorious breeze.

Wings Over Washington (WOW) also had a full beach display in full swing, and Paul LaMasters was up front working the crowd with his Revolution kite, interacting and teasing them in classic LaMasters form… That didn’t stop him from setting down for a minute and saying hello to us, meeting the teammates and generally giving me a hard time (good stuff).

Having had a fair bit of travel and a good day’s practice behind us, dinner time found us at Shenanigan’s restaraunt below out hotel, greeting Sam and Anne Ritter on our way in, eventually sitting by Mike Gillard and Phil Broder as they were finishing their dinners and some evening refreshments.

After a good night’s sleep at the Shoreham Hotel where we’re staying, we wandered over to Boardwalk Joe’s with Jim Cosca, Scott Spencer, Paul and Barbara LaMasters, as well as my whole gang from TKS Mid-Air (Jim McPherson, Moon Kushner, Scott Ralston and Theresa Norelius). I’d never had a Gyro omelette before, but I have to tell you… It rocked, and the coffee was good too… Boardwalk Joe’s has a return vote from me!

Afterwards, we made our way north down the boardwalk and set up a little ways past the Kite Loft for some more much needed practice… With 15-18mph winds however, it proved to be a more challenging day than yesterday! Hurricane Rita is teasing the coastline here, barely reaching over from a ways inland, but should hopefully avoid us for the most part as the week progresses… We’ll of course keep you posted.

Just south of us “Photo” Joe Perron was pulling his three Profile dual line kites through the sky, weaving in and out of each other with his colorful tails, impressive considering the hefty breezes he was contending with… One of only a small handful of people in North America who can handle three kites at the same time, Joe certainly stops his fair share of spectators on the boardwalk while he’s flying.

As the afternoon went on, our wind broke into the 22mph range (measured on our wind meter), unfortunately confirming a forecast Graziano had given me the day before of 15-26mph winds… I was hoping he wasn’t right for flying’s sake, but there was no getting around it today!

After another couple hours of practice the team headed over to OC’s convention center to pick up our registration packets and say hello to a few more people… Too many to list here, but a whole lot of good friends, current AKA President David Gomberg was of course among them, doing a bit of meet and greet himself.

Of particular note was bumping into east coast sport kite veteran Scott Weider (and his brother Darren), who we haven’t seen on the circuit for a couple of years… Scott is apparently coming back around a bit more, and may be seen at a few more comps in 2006.

After grabbing a quick bite on our way back from the convention center, I hit the beach again for a spell before the AKA’s early bird reception behind the Kite Loft… The Gordons were back out, as were quad enthusiasts Sam Ritter, Paul LaMasters, Jeff Burka, Doug Coates and a few others who had their vented quad line kites (primarily Revs, modified or otherwise) out in the ripping winds which were likely surpassing the 25mph mark by 5pm or so.

The rest of the Northwest contingent also arrived around this time, including masters teams 6th Sense (made up of Scott Davis, Wayne Turner, Bill Rogers and Dan Haigh), Cutting Edge (Jim Barber and Jerry Cannon, Rick Wolcott hasn’t arrived yet), as well as 2005 Novice competitors Mike and Jennifer Brown.

Come 6pm, everyone started gathering under the Kite Loft for cold refreshments, fresh raw oysters and clams, shrimp and hot wings, as well as some raffle and door prize drawings.

With somewhere in the neighborhood of 125 people already in attendance on Monday night of this AKAGN, the company was wonderful and reflected an amazing variety of kite people including sport kiters, single line fliers and creators, fighter kite pilots and event organizers, just to name a few… If one were to take a poll of the experience and years accumulated between everyone here, it would be truly stunning to wrap your head around.

After making my expected stop by a number of flier’s rooms, I eventually ended up wandering into Shenanigan’s where a good number of the attendees had gathered for more revelry and general merry making, not surprisingly staying until closing time when the bartender had to make last call and usher us out into the light rain and stiff breeze which was now blowing from an inland direction! Oh boy, let’s hope it doesn’t stay this way for tomorrow and the first day of sport kite competition (starting with Novice class)… Let alone the single line displays, which would suffer equally from wind rolling over the endless row of hotels and condos that OC has to offer.

Well folks it’s 3:40am and I think I’ll turn it in… Consider yourself most welcome to tune in tomorrow night for the latest update, same kite time (give or take), same kite channel!

John Barresi